Leica MD-2 — Throwback Thursday

Leica MD-2 — Throwback Thursday

Post by Paul Brodek our Used Equipment buyer

Leica MD-2 camera front view

We’ve talked about all the benefits of classic M-series Leica rangefinder cameras, with direct, real-time viewing, no finder blackout and very accurate focusing being the most important. So why are we profiling the Leica MD-2, an M-series Leica with no viewfinder/rangefinder whatsoever? Well, one reason if we’ve just recently profiled the M5, which is the only other M-series film body in the showcase at the moment. But another reason is the MD-2 can be a very useful tool for street shooting with ultrawide lenses.

Leica MD-2 Back view


First, some background. The MD-2 is the third in a series of finderless M-series bodies, with the MD-2 based on the M4-2 chassis. It has the angled wind lever, angled rewind crank (instead of the M3 rewind knob), rectangular rewind lever, hinged back to aid film loading, film reminder scale on the back, etc. The MD series was originally designed primarily for scientific/copy work, with earlier versions available with a slotted baseplate to allow insertion of date/subject data to be recorded on the film, alongside the subject. These cameras are also easily adaptable to macro and long tele use with the Visoflex external reflex finder. 

Leica MD-2 Top view and Photo Gnome


So it made sense to have a “rangefinder” body with no viewfinder/rangefinder for these specialized uses, where external viewfinders eliminate the need for an in-body finder. But it’s also fairly easy to make the argument that SLRs are far superior tools for all these uses, since through-the-lens reflex viewing eliminates the need for external finders. Other than it be a cool, collectible object, why bother with one today.
How ’bout street shooting, where you might want to use a 12mm, 15mm, 18mm or 21mm ultra-wide lens, and shoot from the hip? You’re using hyperfocal focus settings and the ultrawide’s deep depth of field, so you’re not needing to focus. And you have a pretty good idea in your brain what the lens is taking in. You could also attach your ultrawide finder to the top of the camera to briefly check coverage and composition before snicking that very, very quiet shutter. No mirror flopping up and down, so fancy camera-looking device attracting attention. 
You could put a modern shoe-mount meter in the shoe if you don’t trust your sunny-16 chops, or even a vintage MR/MR-4 meter if you want to stay vintage.

Leica MD-2 camera, lens, lens hood and viewfinder


Our MD-2 body just came back from service, is in Exc+ condition, and is available for the low-low price of $599.99. We’re showing it with the outstanding Leica 16-18-21mm Wide-Angle Tri-Elmar, also known as the Leica WATE, and it’s multifocal finder, also known as the Frankenfinder. Available as a set for $3,499.99, the WATE is a phenomenal multifocal ultrawide that is not a zoom, no in-between settings usable. In addition to being incredibly sharp and contrasty on film, it excels with digital imaging, including/especially with those thick sensor stack, high pixel-count cameras that usually do very poorly with film-era ultrawides.

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